Belarus attacks US, cuts embassy staff

In a statement announcing the decision on Thursday, the Belarusian foreign ministry said it was reducing the number of “diplomatic and administrative-technical” staff at the embassy, ​​without specifying the number of staff who will be affected.

The ministry’s press secretary Anatoly Glaz said that in addition to the reduction in staff, Belarus will also tighten visa procedures and revoke permission for USAID to work in the country.

“The US charge d’affaires in Belarus was invited to the foreign ministry today and he was told retaliatory measures,” Glaz said in the statement.

The Biden administration announced in April that it would no longer allow US transactions with nine Belarusian state-owned companies sanctioned for human rights violations by the Lukashenko government. After a 45-day slowdown, those sanctions came back into effect on Thursday.

Glaz said the measures Belarus introduced were “targeted” and “designed to send a clear signal to the United States about the futility of pressure and coercion in relations with Belarus.”

“As before, we are not prepared to escalate and are ready to continue contacts with the American side on the principles of equality and mutual respect,” he said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States has been made aware of the new restrictions, which will take effect on June 13.

He said the administration was “disappointed, to put it mildly, to be where (they) are now” in relations with Belarus.

Price said US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher “will continue to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people and will continue to engage with them outside Belarus.”

Fisher was sworn in as the first U.S. ambassador to Belarus since 2008 in December last year, but is not based in the country.

Price said she would continue to engage with “media professionals, students and other civil society members of pro-democracy movements, to express our support.”

Fisher has traveled to various European countries in recent weeks and Price said he expected her to “continue to do so in the future.”